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Vol. LXII, No. 40
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

DANCING IN THE DARK: Two lost souls Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane, left) and Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) fall in love during a long weekend together in a romantic B&B inn located on North Carolina’s coastline.

Nights in Rodanthe: Richard Gere and Diane Lane Star in Adaptation of Novel

Kam Williams

In addition to J.K. Rowling, Nicholas Sparks is the only contemporary novelist who has had a book remain on the New York Times best seller list for more than a year. While Ms. Rowling has been publishing her series of fanciful Harry Potter books, Sparks has been writing over a dozen romantic novels, set mostly in the South, that have unusual plot twists that are designed to tug on the readers’ heartstrings.

Three of his earlier works have been made into movies: Message in a Bottle (1999), A Walk to Remember (2002) and The Notebook (2004). Now, Nights in Rodanthe is the latest of his novels that is being turned into a movie. Fans familiar with the book, however, are likely to be surprised at how the original storyline has been tweaked by scriptwriter Ann Peacock.

Directed by George C. Wollfe, the film reunites Richard Gere and Diane Lane who first appeared opposite each other in The Cotton Club (1984) and later in Unfaithful (2002). Other than crow’s feet caught on close-ups, it doesn’t look as if time has either aged them much or diminished their ability to generate chemistry on the screen.

At the beginning of the film we’re introduced to Adrienne Willis (Lane), a married woman whose life is falling apart. We learn that in the past few months her father has died, her husband (Christopher Meloni) has dumped her and changed his mind, and her teenage child (Mae Whitman) has become impossible to live with.

Fortunately, Adrienne’s best friend, Jean (Viola Davis), owns a bed and breakfast on Hatteras Island located right on the ocean along North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Jean suggests that Adrienne stay at her B&B for a little rest and relaxation while Jean goes to Florida on business. However, Adrienne will have to take care of the one guest she’s expecting while she’s gone, a surgeon arriving from Raleigh for a four night stay.

It turns out that Dr. Paul Flanner (Gere) has his own emotional baggage. He has been inconsolable ever since a patient (Linda Molloy) accidentally died on his operating table. He also has some issues to work out with his 28-year-old son (James Franco), to whom he hasn’t spoken in a year.

The inevitable happens when the two troubled souls in search of a little solitude find each other. Paul and Adrienne fall in love at first sight when they meet at the idyllic retreat. They share romantic candlelit meals and take long walks along the beach. All this unfolds during the off-season, so there shouldn’t be any annoying disturbances on the deserted isle to spoil their time together. However, the plot is thickened by the approach of a hurricane and the unhappy family of Dr. Flanner’s deceased patient.

Visually enchanting, Nights in Rodanthe is more memorable for its cinematography than for the dramas between the characters that are hastily introduced and unconvincingly resolved over the course of a very eventful weekend.

That’s the trouble with trying to condense a 250-page novel into a 90-minute movie, character development is sacrificed in order to cram in all of the plot’s sub-stories.

Good (two stars). Rated PG-13 for sensuality, partial nudity, and mild epithets. Running time: 96 minutes. Studio: Warner Brothers.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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